Following is the text of UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ video message to the conference titled “Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region”, in Brussels today:
My warm greetings and gratitude to [European Union] High Representative [for Foreign Affairs Federica] Mogherini and all those gathered for this crucial conference in support of the future of Syria and the region.
We have a full UN team in Brussels ready to partner with you for this meaningful effort.
In this eighth year of war, the scale of humanitarian needs in Syria remains staggering. More than 13 million people are living in desperate conditions, exposed to relentless violence and persistent violations of international law. Some 5.6 million others have fled across Syria’s borders, hosted in neighbouring countries and unsure of when they will be able to return home.
Attacks on medical facilities and health-care providers have become a shocking hallmark of the crisis.
Millions of children, who have never known peace, have been deprived of their right to an education, and robbed of their chance to contribute to a better future for their country.
As if all this was not enough, we see the conflict reaching new depths of depravity. Since the beginning of this year alone, an estimated 700,000 people have been displaced — many not for the first time — and violence in eastern Ghouta, Afrin, Idleb and elsewhere has generated a massive wave of elevated humanitarian needs.
I am particularly disturbed by the targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure, as well as the reported use of chemical weapons. Surely, we can all agree: any use of chemical weapons is abhorrent. It is our responsibility, not least to the victims of such attacks, to ensure accountability for these crimes.
The conflict has caused horrendous suffering across an entire region. At the same time, Syria has become a greenhouse for global instability. Indeed, Syria today represents one of the most serious threats to international peace and security.
We see confrontations and proxy wars involving several national armies, a number of armed opposition groups, many national and international militia, terrorist groups, foreign fighters from everywhere in the world — all these creating a bleak panorama of Syria today where there is no military solution to the crisis. The solution must be political.
We must work for a vision of a future Syria that can be shared by all. A vision of a democratic and non-sectarian State based on political pluralism and equal citizenship irrespective of religion, ethnicity and gender, with full respect for and protection of the rule of law.
I will continue to engage with Member States to find new ways to make real progress towards a genuine and credible political solution that meets the aspirations of the Syrian people to dignity and freedom in accordance with [Security Council] resolution 2254 (2015) and the Geneva communiqué.
Despite an immensely challenging operating environment, humanitarian organizations continue to reach millions of people each month with assistance and protection, thanks to the generous support of donors.
At the recent Security Council retreat just a few days ago, in Sweden, I sensed a strong commitment to humanitarian access — and to overcoming the obstacles to the delivery of aid to all Syrians.
Humanitarian personnel, the vast majority of whom are Syrian, are working tirelessly and bravely to save lives. They need a clear demonstration of support from the international community for their efforts.
The millions of people affected by this terrible crisis need to know that the international community will spare no efforts to ensure that they will have the assistance and protection they need. I appeal for the remarkable generosity shown by humanitarian donors last year to be sustained and indeed, if possible, increased.
Let us pledge today to renew and strengthen our political, humanitarian and financial commitments in support of the Syrian people, the countries of the region, and the communities affected by this tragic conflict.
Thank you and good success in your work.